Friday, December 15, 2017

How welfare programs destroyed fatherhood

Social welfare programs are some of the most divisive topics in American politics. That should be expected when one considers that one-out-of-five American households take some form of means-tested welfare.

When discussing what most people consider classic welfare (food stamps, housing, Medicaid) single moms are regularly put in the crosshairs by detractors as they and their kids are recipients of vast amounts of it.

There are 10 million single-mother households and 45% of them are living in poverty, while only 10% of dual parent homes fall in that same category. Single mother homes receive 90% of all TANF funds (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). They account for 60% of all SNAP recipients (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program is widely known as “food stamps”).  

Because of the benefits they receive, they are often looked at in any number of derogatory terms. Leeches. Scum. Losers. Welfare queens. Prostitutes. 

That’s unfair given that three-quarters of single moms work while being a mom is a full-time job unto itself. It’s not as if they aren’t trying.

On the other hand, those who actually deserve derisiveness, those who helped put them into that situation and helped to make a family but do absolutely nothing to maintain it – the so-called “fathers” – are left relatively unscathed when we address society’s woes.

In the good old days, a real man accepted his role in the development of a family. If he brought kids into this world, he was there for them. He married or stayed with the mother. As a functioning couple, through better or worse, they made the best life that they could for their children on their financial efforts alone --- not the taxpayers’. Men were men and families were stronger and healthier because of it. 

It just so happens that those “good old days” were over 50 years ago. The abandonment of fatherly roles by millions of men commenced in earnest with the War on Poverty which began under President Lyndon Johnson’s watch in 1964. You would think that after 5 decades we’d be winning the war. But, as made evident by the numbers above, we’re treading water, even losing it in many places.

That’s because the very tools implemented in that war have contributed to today’s living conditions faced by young ladies and their kids. With Uncle Sam and state governments being able to provide to the women and children all of life’s requirements from food to shelter to heat to health, dads-by-name-alone can shirk their duties to them and instead put it on the greater population to handle his responsibilities, no questions asked.

Welfare has been in complicit in the decay of the moral fiber of many a man and the destruction of many a family. The proof is in the pudding: In 1964, when the War on Poverty began, 93% of all American births were to women with marriage licenses. Today, 41% of all births are by unwed women; for mothers under the age of 30, that rate jumps to almost 55%. Over that same period, the number of children living in two-parent homes dropped from 88% to 69%.    

Single mother homes have become commonplace because we’ve allowed it to happen by rewarding the men who use the young ladies for gratification and then cast them aside. But, are they really men? There are few things more disgusting than someone who claims to be a man but lives his life like a carefree boy. Yet, we as a society do little to change their ways and we make it too easy on them to not assume the responsibilities of fatherhood.

Doing what we need to do to right the ship won’t be easy. How do we change the modern man-child and encourage the acceptance of the responsibilities of fatherhood? It took 50 years to ruin what constituted manhood; will it take 50 years to bring it back?

From the 11 December 2017 Greater Niagara Newspapers

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